Indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid —your first visit to an online seed bank can become mind-boggling without a helping hand!
Apart from the two major cannabis families, the industry is now rich with hybrid strains. These display either a specific set of characteristics, both simultaneously, or something completely different from the sum of its elements. How can a rookie know where to begin?
Help is on the way. These distinct marijuana plant groups are full of unique strains, but family members share some general traits. Once you narrow down the search pool to only cultivars with your desired features, picking the best of the bunch becomes a breeze.
Today, we’re here to help you do just that. We’ll explain the differences between sativa and indica and how these traits determine the properties of hybrids. Of course, we’re generalizing, but it’s more than enough to set you on solid footing for future research.
We’ll end by suggesting our favorite strains from all three categories. That way, you get a starting point for a future deep dive into our extensive weed seed selection.
Sativa vs. indica chart
What is the difference between indica and sativa? These two weed families come from distinct parts of the world. Their environments led to them developing different sets of traits to adapt to their natural conditions.
- Cannabis indica arrives from Afghanistan, India, and Northern Pakistan (particularly the Hindu Kush mountains)
- Cannabis sativa originated in warmer parts of the world (mainly Southeast Asia, Central America, and South America)
Most strains we see on the market today aren’t the original plants that grew in these regions (we call these landraces). Instead, they’re the results of generations of crossbreeding that led to cultivars with sativa-dominant, indica-dominant, or balanced hybrid qualities.
To begin grasping the ins and outs of cannabis hybrids, you first need to understand the basic traits of indica and sativa.
Check out this sativa vs. indica chart for quick reference.
|Effects||Happy, relaxed, sleepy||Energized, focused, uplifted|
|Health benefits||Mitigate anxiety, muscle spasms, and nausea||Alleviate stress, chronic pain, and fatigue|
|Aromas||Wood, herbs, earth||Tropical fruit and spice|
|Flowering times||8–12 weeks||10–16 weeks|
|Appearance||Short and bushy||Tall and lanky|
What’s the difference between indica, sativa, and hybrid?
What is the difference between sativa and indica in different aspects of the growing and smoking experience? How do hybrids fit this landscape? This guide covers it all.
- Physical differences
- Flavor profiles of both varieties
- Typical effects for medical and recreational purposes
- Cannabinoid and terpene contents
- Applicable gardening practices
Indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid physical differences
It’s easier to know what cannabis family found its way into your blunt when you already light it up. Still, there are ways to determine the marijuana sativa vs. indica differences as early as the vegetative stage.
Let’s explore how these families differ in appearance and what you can expect from a hybrid.
Leaves and foliage
The foliage on indica and sativa develops aesthetic differences when they enter vegging. The thin sativa branches usually hold fewer fan leaves, while squat indica structures become dense and bushy, resembling a Christmas tree.
Sativa vs. indica leaves differ in width more than anything else. Sativa blades tend to be slender and wispy, while indica plants have broad and short fan leaves. Regarding hybrids, genetic dominance determines the growth pattern and leaf structure.
Buds and colas
How to tell the difference between indica and sativa in flowering? You can check their colas (bud clusters developing along the main stem).
- Indica colas are dense and tightly packed with buds.
- Sativa has longer stems with less condensed bud sites.
Breeders usually go for indica-style cola production for hybrids, which tend to yield more at harvest time.
Nodes and internodes
Nodes are the spots where the branches and main stems meet. Internodes are the gaps between the nodes. How do these look in an indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid context?
- Indica cannabis has more nodes and shorter internodes due to its short stem and branching.
- The tall sativa counterpart has fewer branches and nodes with large internodal structures.
- Hybrid height ultimately determines this aspect.
Height is the most obvious difference between indica and sativa.
- Sativa cannabis grows tall, often surpassing six feet in height.
- Indica is short and stout, dedicating energy to lateral branching rather than stem elongation. Plants are around three feet tall.
Hybrids with indica in their gene pool usually fall on the shorter side of the spectrum.
Indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid flavor profiles
Indica, sativa, and hybrid flavors depend on their terpene composition, and no two strains taste the same. It’s usually a blend of qualities from the genetic parentage that determines each aromatic bouquet. What you can usually expect is:
- Sweet and fruity aromas from sativa strains
- Earthy and spicy notes from indica strains
- A blend of both in hybrids (thank you, breeders)
Note: Due to myrcene, the most prominent terpene in cannabis in general, smells of wood and earth tend to dominate flavor profiles across the board.
Indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid effects
The belief that sativa vs. indica means energizing vs. calming is a bit of a stereotype. Not every sativa has you bouncing against the walls, and not all indicas are couch-locking. Hybrids tend to balance out these different styles of high even further.
This generalization is useful to an extent, though. You can expect:
- Daytime energy from a sativa-dominant cultivar.
- Nighttime relaxation with indica strains.
Most balanced hybrids hit the head first and slowly spread throughout the body.
Different kinds of weed soothe symptoms of various medical issues. Generally speaking, indica and sativa do the following:
- Sativa energizes, motivates, and relieves fatigue. It’s excellent as a mood stimulant, and its physical energy helps with chronic pain.
- Indica calms the mind and soothes the body. It does wonders against PTSD, insomnia, and anxiety in the head, as well as muscle spasms and pain in the body.
What about indica and sativa vs. hybrid, then? Hybrids tend to deliver medical effects that surpass the sum of their elements. Some are bred with specific conditions in mind, and others offer a broad set of health benefits.
Indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid cannabinoids
The cannabis plant has over 100 different compounds, two of which have been in the limelight recently:
- THC, which induces the head and body high
- CBD, which is non-psychoactive and therapeutic
Everything from genetic predisposition to sunlight in flowering determines how much of both an indica or sativa crop displays. As a rule of thumb, though, indica strains tend to be higher in CBD, making it a bit more therapeutic and somewhat less psychoactive.
Indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid terpenes
Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in fruit and plants. Apart from giving cannabis its characteristic perfume, they contribute to the ‘entourage’ effect, determining how your body reacts to the cannabinoid infusion.
We can’t tell you for certain which terpenes you’ll find in cannabis indica vs. sativa, as it’s a strain-by-strain thing. We can only discuss some general dominances we see across the landscape.
Sativa or indica, these terpenes are most commonly found in all ganja:
- Myrcene—earthy and mucky, calming and sedating
- Limonene—sweet and citrusy, it elevates mood and promotes healthy digestion
- Pinene—a fresh pine aroma, relaxing and pain-relieving
The following often set the two cannabis families apart:
- Valencene in sativa for a tropical fruit aroma, alertness, and mood elevation
- Caryophyllene in indica for a spicy perfume that alleviates inflammation and anxiety
Indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid cultivation
The final indica vs. sativa difference to discuss is the cultivation style necessary for either kind of cannabis to thrive.
The easiest way to achieve abundance is by replicating the natural environment where these different types of weed originated. For that reason, understanding what’s the difference between indica and sativa environmental requirements is vital.
The particulars vary from strain to strain, but these rules are useful as guidelines:
- Sativa originated around the equator, which made it capable of handling the heat. It needs heat and plenty of sunlight but displays resistance against humidity issues.
- Indica weed strains don’t mind a bit of cold and harsh weather conditions, but humidity can be the death of your sticky flowers.
Other factors to keep in mind when choosing between indica and sativa are:
- Due to its stretchiness, sativa requires a lot of headroom. It works well with the Screen of Green training technique and might need branch support come flowering.
- The squat and bushy structure of indica makes it excellent for smaller grow spaces, where it responds well to the Sea of Green training method. Pruning is a must to manage the foliage density.
Note: The growth traits of each strain come with different requirements in terms of climate, nutrients, training, and sunlight exposure. Always research your cultivar before germinating the weed seed.
What determines if a weed plant is indica, sativa, or hybrid?
Indica, sativa, or hybrid—which natural and lab-based processes decide on the result?
Each modern cannabis plant has a gene pool behind it. Most ‘pure’ strains consist of other sativa- or indica-dominant genomes. For example, when you’re looking at landrace sativa vs. hybrid sativa, you’ll notice a slight deviation, but one small enough to call both sativa. Cannabis plants we’d call hybrids simply display more of a trait blend.
When breeders create new strains, they consider different indica and sativa effects, flavors, and growth patterns. They aim to bring out the most desirable qualities in the new cultivar.
Note: ‘True hybrids’ are those that blend the qualities of the two cannabis families at an approximately 50-50 rate.
9 indica & sativa & hybrid strains you must try
Having learned about indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid, you might already be picking favorites, or your head might be spinning. Whatever the case may be, trial and error is your way to finding the perfect cultivar for your needs and desires.
To make things a bit easier, we’ve rounded up our three favorite strains for each category. There’s a lot more on Homegrown, but if you need a place to start your search for the cultivar of your dreams, this is it.
Sativa or indica for a daytime high to get stuff done? In this category, Sativa is the winner. These options add a pep to your step, get rid of the blues, and ensure you’re staying productive and grinning:
- Steve’s Dream Queen Feminized is a high-yielding, tropical-tasting, uplifting herb with considerable THC and CBD levels. It awakens, thrills, and heals in one smooth stroke.
- Haze Auto is a classic among sativa enthusiasts, and its buds never miss their mark. The mental uplift translates into physical energy that keeps you going for hours without any negativity raining on your parade.
- Diesel Feminized has a name that already speaks of pungency, making it a fave among old-school stoners. Its moderate THC levels and euphoric focus make it ideal for daytime use when you need to stay on top of your game.
If the indica versus sativa competition has a jury of stressed-out stoners looking to unwind and lose themselves in easy bliss, indica wins every time. Try these strains for some ‘you time’ and deep TLC:
- Hindu Kush Feminized is a pure indica whose generous yields are as sticky as cannabis comes. The relaxed, euphoric state of mind transforms into a night of deep sleep with these buds by your side.
- Afghan Feminized is a classic loved by medical and recreational users. The blend of earth, spice, and sweetness translates into a therapeutic high that heals from the inside out.
- White Rhino Feminized is a high-yielder that’ll fill your mason jars and keep you happy all winter long. Honey, skunk, and pine combine to boost your appetite and put you into a mental space no worry can reach.
What about those stoners who want a bit of both? What do they say about hybrid vs. sativa, or will they go for indica instead? In reality, they can get a bit of everything from one cannabis plant. Here are some of the top balanced hybrids, at least in our book:
- Alien OG Feminized is a stress-busting THC powerhouse. The balanced high makes you blissfully happy while relaxing every muscle in your body, challenging your self-control with its sweet-and-spicy smoke.
- LA Confidential Feminized is yet another heavy-hitter, this time with skunky notes underpinning the rush of mental energy and physical calm coming your way. An absolute breeze to grow, it’s a favorite among cultivators of all levels.
- Lemon Tree Feminized offers a rich head-to-toe experience made even better with its flavors of sweet citrus. It uplifts at first, bringing you down from a high to a stone several hours into the experience.
We often hear the following questions from folks interested in the indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid distinction. Here are the answers.
Is indica an upper or a downer?
From an indica vs. sativa high context, indica is a downer. These marijuana strains calm you down physically, sometimes going as far as to glue you to your seat. It’s a different story in your mind, which gets lost somewhere on cloud nine.
Which strain gets you higher, indica or sativa?
When speaking of sativa vs. indica regarding potency, we can only tell you that there’s no significant chemical difference between the two. Individual cannabinoid contents, terpene profiles of each strain, and growing methods determine what gets you more intoxicated.
What does sativa do to the brain?
Sativa makes you happy, energized, and ready to take on the day. More scientifically, the cannabinoids and terpenes present in this cannabis family trigger a serotonin release.
This hormone regulates movement, learning, appetite, anxiety, and overall mood. The impact of sativa chemicals on these processes makes you feel good.
The best of all worlds
Now that you’re aware of the difference between indica and sativa and how hybrids fit the picture, you’re empowered to find the strain of your dreams.
Don’t be afraid to experiment, either. You’ll enjoy the weed world much more if you don’t limit yourself to one to two cultivars.
About the author: Derek LaRose
Also known as Kronic from The Cannabis Kronicles, Derek LaRose is a young ambitious cultivator and a staple educator for indoor cultivation.